The “Post-Plague” Office: There Could be Quite a Run on the Suburbs

I asked top executives from three tech companies—with a hundred employees, with a thousand, and with many thousands—where they would put their next offices.

By John E. McNellis, Principal at McNellis Partners, for The Registry:

Last week, Mark Zuckerberg said he believes that half of Facebook’s employees will be working from home over the next 10 years. To that point, Facebook released the results of an internal employee poll: 50% plus want to get back to the office, while 40% would like to work from home permanently, 75% of those at some great distance from headquarters.

Put another way, about a third of Facebookers want to commute downstairs to their basement in Ely, Minnesota. A wily man, Zuckerberg both recognizes the tidal surge in favor of working at home (and its apparent productivity) and how to profit from it: If an employee wishes to work from Ely, his salary will be reduced to reflect Ely’s cost of living.

Should office building landlords be overly concerned about the herd’s out-migration? Maybe not. First, if this pandemic has proven anything, it’s that solitary confinement sucks; the work-at-home craze will likely abate. Second, many positions within companies require daily office presence, many departments only function collaboratively; they need to work side by side. More importantly—and easier to quantify—is the crosscurrent that’s offsetting the outgoing tide.

Every thinking company in America is drawing up war plans to double the office square footage allocated to its employees. They know they must not only make their employees safe but also feel safe. Plans include more private offices, less density in open areas and making hallways, exits and other pinch points unidirectional. The long dining table approach with headphoned workers cheek by jowl is now a relic.

Bottom line, if half the employees stay home, but the footage is doubled for everyone else, you’ve achieved an equilibrium. Your tenants’ space needs stay roughly constant.

Rather than considering if office demand will go away, the issue will likely be where that demand will center. My last essay—Death of the Elevator (behind paywall)—described the elevator as ground zero for COVID-19, and the biggest loser among the coronavirus-stricken vanquished. Why? Simply because of its fear factor: The elevator is the smallest contained space one must share with strangers. This may be unfair; elevators may not be COVID-19’s killing ground. In fact, the very low death rates in elevator-packed Hong Kong and Singapore suggest that universal masks are effective in elevators.

But fear trumps facts (No matter how sanguine they were about the real estate market, everyone I interviewed for this essay said he was personally staying away from elevators). Voodoo works if you believe in it.

Following the contained-space logic, the plague’s second-biggest loser may be—sadly—mass transit. Riding BART or Manhattan’s F train has long challenged not only one’s lumbar region but also dignity. Now, the vision of sharing a car with 60 scratchy-throated strangers is a horror movie’s opening scene. Those fearing public transportation will point to the fact that Los Angeles has had 1/8th the death rate of mass transit’s mecca, New York City.

If, as many hope and believe, this fear of tightly enclosed spaces vanishes within the next year or so, central business districts will breathe easier. If, on the other hand, even a minority of employees are unwilling to transit en masse or develop a lasting elevator phobia, or if their employers fear another costly shutdown when the next once-in-a-lifetime pandemic arrives five years from now, city centers will suffer. Downtowns won’t hollow out, but ask yourself what happens to rents when your potential tenant pool shrinks by 15% to 20%.

It will.

I asked top executives from three tech companies—one with a hundred employees, another with a thousand, and the third with many thousands—where they would put their next offices. Would they take a floor in a downtown high-rise or opt for a suburban walk-up? All three insisted upon the latter. Rather than in multi-tenant buildings where their neighbors’ health and safety protocols may be lax, they want to be in their own buildings, controlling everything for their employees.

“It’s a tough time to be an urbanist,” said one senior manager. “For us, finding a location and a building where our employees feel psychological safety is paramount. That probably means avoiding high-rises, at least for the next several years.”

A second opined, “The draw for us is to have the whole building, somewhere we have control over in terms of security and being able to truly call it our home… Walk-ups also have their added value in terms of environmental sustainability, health and wellness.”

The third added, “The question is: Where are our employees going to feel the most productive? If they’re feeling angst over public transit or elevators, they’re not going to be happy. We’re going to lose them. Also, you have to think about recruiting new employees. Will they come to work for us on the 30th floor of a multi-tenant high-rise?”

These three guys could be the only ones in America unwilling to go long on a downtown high-rise, but I doubt it. There could be quite a run on the suburbs. By John E. McNellis, for The Registry.

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  133 comments for “The “Post-Plague” Office: There Could be Quite a Run on the Suburbs

  1. Shiloh1 says:

    Last year McDonalds sold their leafy long-time corporate campus in Oak Brook, moving to a Chicago hipster location.

    • Lisa_Hooker says:

      Motorola too went to Chicago and sold off their corporate campus in Schaumburg.

      But that was then and this is now … and the future.

    • Pieter says:

      Our offices are still empty except engineers and the dock man. They only clean the first floor bathrooms…. all other floors are empty. The HR group installed apps to monitor activity with the stay at homes (basically everyone) and everyone took home their docking stations and monitors. the amount of money the corporation is saving has to be giant. No more sexual harassment/affairs, weird bathroom incidents, constant complaining about smelly people, the fountain that runs all day and night, no more expensive landscaping, no more toilet paper use, and everything that involves corporate spending. At this point I hear it is working out and sublet the other floors is a real possibility. I am working from home for good since last year so happy to see others are able to do the same. Technology is changing everything to the better at the office/warehouse.

      • Portia says:

        I am waiting for at-home workers to charge office rent to their employers…
        I love your description of the no mores…lol
        people complaining about the smell of my healthy lunch…

  2. akiddy111 says:

    This virus has been a real gift to the wealthiest 5% of society, especially in countries like the USA.. It has been astonishing to witness.

    Debt forgiveness will be granted for the bottom 50% who need it. It’s the only way. Don’t write too many checks for your kids college.

    BTW, i see that Greece’s 10 year yield is 1.5%. A smile appears on my
    face.

    Well, we had our opportunity. The big bazookas were blasted in mid march 2020. The Fed, Congress and Mnuchin stopped short at that point of guaranteeing enormous short run gains on all manner of assets from JNK to the s&P 500.

    Small and micro cap stocks of all stripes and distinctions are exploding in value these last few sessions. Time to chill a little. The harvest is almost in for now.

    • leanFIRE_Queen says:

      Not really. The destruction of demand that ends up decimating many businesses (the source of wealth of the top 5%) is coming in a couple of months.

      Just like during the last crash, those who think it’s contained to job losses on the servant sector don’t get this part of the cycle at all.

  3. Portia says:

    What about better air filtration and frequent air replacement? I recall the buildings I worked in as having very poor air quality. This IMHO is more important than more space per capita, and is frequently aready baked into the architecture of the structure. How will cleaner air be achieved?

    • Joe says:

      Balloons?

    • Leslie says:

      My question is are these companies going to be traveling and holding conferences. Will the hotels lose the event business?

      • Fats says:

        I am in the live event industry and travel all over the US and occasionally overseas producing business meetings.

        They are already submitting RFPs for the fall. It’s coming back – one piece at a time.

        As far as these new tech headquarters go… how about all those zombie malls scattered across America. Seems like cheap real estate for these guys to pick up once brick and mortar truly does dissolve.

        • Mike G says:

          Locally, an Amazon IT office just moved into a closed-down small department store in a hip downtown location.

    • Remember Legionaires disease?

      • Portia says:

        yes, and I think it became a sort of umbrella designation for all sorts of dirty air system ailments.

      • Robert says:

        Yes, and it’s alive and well at Frisco Lakes, TX. Our indoor community pool has been closed for 7 months.

      • Gandalf says:

        All AC units extract moisture from the air which condenses on the cooling tubing into water. The AC system has to be effective at draining this water away. Many older AC units get their water drainage blocked with debris after years of use and then you get standing puddles of water in and around the AC unit that allows for all all sorts of microbes and mold to grow

        Lots of houses have the coolant coil part of the AC buried in the attic with the main confluence of the central AC ducts. High rises often have the AC at the top of the building. In both settings, the water puddles collect unseen and build up all sorts of unhealthy life forms.

        An easy way to get cleaner air at home is to vacuum out your air ducts and then install same size MERV 13 air filters, which are just short of HEPA quality. And rip out all your carpet, replace with tile, wood, or linoleum. Carpet is awful for air quality

        • PressGaneyMustDie says:

          Legionnaires loves tepid water like backup hot water boilers and nooks & crannies of infrequently used hot water lines. Gandalf is right about HVAC systems being potential Legionnaires vectors but when hotels reopen I would be very wary of showers.

        • NoFreeLunch says:

          We have dual long length high powered UV-C lamps aimed at the evaporator coils in my home AC. Kills everything that goes by or drips off, especially viruses.

    • MCH says:

      The more “enlightened” would suggest those with poor air quality in their work place work from home. It’ll negate the need for worrying about the dirty air in your current working environment. Of course, that likely ignores the provide that it may not be an option.

      The alternatives… well, I can think of a few, but I’m sure you can figure those out.

    • Anthony says:

      Portia

      How will cleaner air be achieved?

      Open the windows…….

  4. Joe says:

    When your doing 3 productive hours in 8, it is quite easy to make it work at home.
    Are we at 10 supervisors yet for every government construction worker?

  5. TimJ says:

    Now with social unrest in urban areas, it’s preferable to live further out.

  6. Matt says:

    Wolf . The current owner of Boston market just purchased a empty middle School in bucks county pa. He plans to move corporate hq to the town where he grew up. I will send you the article. Coincides with this

  7. DanS86 says:

    iqAir (Swiss) consults on non-residential air purification needs with it HyperHEPA technology. Use iqAir units at home.

  8. stan6566 says:

    This is an easy one.

    Get the newly-health-conscious companies to abandon their iron clad commercial leases is L.A. or SF or NYC CBDs (delete as necessarily) (no penalty applies and G will pay for running costs), and take on new iron clad commercial leases on abandoned and derelict shopping malls (suburbs: tick), (G will pay for running costs). (G will also provide adequate securitisation for refurb costs, curtesy GS or JPM or S-Munchkin—Loans-are-us).

    My consultancy rates are the very humble 2% of the value of the deal. Where do I send an Invoice?.

    • Cas127 says:

      Despite the goof ball tone, this is not a terrible idea.

      Some repurposing of dead/dying malls into office space (admittedly not great office space) because they are less confined…makes some sense.

      At least relative to letting the malls rot or leveling them

    • CZ says:

      Remember they sold off the Pontiac Silverdome for half a million bucks? Could fit a lot of cubicles in there.

    • Debt Wazoo says:

      Malls tend to have all the bathrooms in three or four clusters, a considerable distance from many of the stores.

      It might work if one gigantic mega-corp takes the whole mall, but if you’re doing multi-tenant you’re sharing a bathroom with your neighbors and your employees have to leave the premesis to take a dump.

      Things like bathroom location can’t easily be fixed after the building is built. Most are slab foundation.

      • VintageVNvet says:

        Slabs can be and are cut to make slots for plumbing drains every day.
        Not sure exactly where you live, but used to be $1 per linear foot for the actual cutting of the slab, so $2/LF per slot, another dollar to remove the concrete, then the plumber, usually, did the digging so it would be correct, and the back fill, then the concrete guys replaced the concrete.
        Total in the $10 to $15 range, depending on location and quantity.
        This has been done for many years in all the states my clients have been working in, from coast to coast, north to south.
        NOT a problem, and the rest of the remodeled utilities — that don’t depend on gravity flow — usually fit quite easily into the bar joists, etc., and the spaces above the drop ceilings that are also SO easy to remodel.

        • Molo says:

          Mall anchors usually have employee break rooms, restrooms, training rooms, cubicles behind the retail floor.

  9. Jdog says:

    As I mentioned before, the physiological effects of this virus may well outweigh the physical illness itself. Despite the fact most Americans have the attention span of a 6yr old, once they become accustom to thinking a certain way, it takes years to change that trend.

    • Wisdom Seeker says:

      Psychological, not physiological?

    • rhodium says:

      Accustomed to thinking in terms of not social distancing or wearing masks? Accustomed to not believing anything that doesn’t fit their preferred bias? The trend was successfully not changed much due to the virus, so you’re right, they’re not easy to change.

      • c smith says:

        And they won’t change. Two months of lockdown isn’t enough to do it. Two years…? Maybe.

  10. 2banana says:

    Seriously doubt it for most.

    Shift work for offices (they are empty 2/3 of the day anyways). Mandatory telecommute one day a week (20% reduction). Lay-offs. High walled cubicals. Outsourcing. Etc.

    Businesses are looking at the virus as temporary. You don’t build or lease long term for a temporary issue. Plus, with the recent events of the last week, extreme virus protocols are not seen as vital anymore. We will know for sure in about two weeks.

    “Every thinking company in America is drawing up war plans to double the office square footage allocated to its employees. “

    • LoneCoyote says:

      Just talking anecdotally, my company is very much into the shift work aspect. We’re supposed to have no more than 50% of people in the office at once, and given that our ability to work from home is limited (I’m at about 36 hours per week in the office, a couple lucky people are working 20 hours a week in office), schedules have been completely scrambled. Parking lots have been more full on Saturdays than I’ve ever seen before.

      A couple coworkers have shifted to working 7 pm to 3 am or something like that, but I have nowhere near the mental fortitude to handle that.

  11. Stephen says:

    Wolf – Did you write this pre-riots? I am happy to be in my burb right now.

  12. Lisa_Hooker says:

    It is a marvelous time to be working in a wafer fab cleanroom.

    • char says:

      Those do not have the bet reputation heath wise. They are clean for chips, not humans

    • EEngineer says:

      Yeah, the bunny suit sucked until allergy season came around and then all of a sudden the fab became a refuge. As an R&D guy I all of a sudden began to actually volunteer to go work on the tool. A long time ago…

    • Debt Wazoo says:

      Love the smell of Hydrogen Fluoride in the morning!

      Just be careful around the ion implanter.

      Joking aside, I wish we still had more of these here in the US. Having to kowtow to TSMC was why I gave up on VLSI.

  13. Tony says:

    Working from home currently since the pandemic. I hate it. Just letting everyone know. I’d rather be at the office. They have free coffee and snacks. Also being at the office is nice because I actually wake up and take a shower and get ready to start the day. I’m tired of wearing sweatpants everyday working from home. I miss the office.

    • Jon says:

      Me too
      I like being in office

      • California Bob says:

        Ditto (before I retired anyway). When your home becomes your office, you feel like you should be working while ‘in the office.’ I needed a clear demarcation between ‘work’ and ‘NOT work.’

        • sierra7 says:

          California Bob:
          Best statement yet…..

          Have one daughter working in SF (Admin) that can’t wait to get back to here workplace. She hates working from home…..no delineation between “home and work” life.

    • Harvey Mushman says:

      Exactly what I think as well!!!
      However, my commute is 9 miles. One of my co-workers has a 1.5 hour commute…. he loves working from home.

    • ook says:

      Well…sweatpants aren’t mandatory for working at home. I shower and put on work clothes. It sets the mood, and makes a better impression on my video calls (I can see how people react differently). And yes, I change out in the evening.

    • Cas127 says:

      And those 10 commuting trips per week are like…a flying bouncy house!!!!

      Weeeee!

    • PW says:

      I miss the social aspects of the office as I live alone in a typically unfriendly Colorado condo community. :(

  14. Shawn says:

    I’m wondering, how many people have ditched not only the office but the corporate world entirely and started their own companies? I reckon the next ten years will be a gig economy on steroids.

    • leanFIRE_Queen says:

      I joined LeanFIRE myself!

      I used to be a renter who worked even on weekends surrounded by NIMBYs who loved to inflate my housing costs.

      Finally, with the help of a CPA I’ve put the NIMBYs to work for me instead (thank you home equity obsessed guys for paying for my healthcare :-). I’ll never buy a house. I’ll convert a van and tarvel instead, working maybe 5-10 hours per week, if so. J dont really need to work.

      The system wasn’t working for renters. Shifting healthcare costs, taxes, and the level of consumption necessary to keep the system from collapsing on the NIMBYs shoulders seems optimal.

      • Portia says:

        I thought abut that, and the tiny house thing, but I am too timid to park somewhere and feel safe. So I live in the woods. After I drove the neighborhood drug dealers out (they were a surprise) it’s great.

      • motorcycle guy says:

        leanFIRE_Queen
        I’m answering your question from the previous article here.
        I have been riding four about forty five years now. My current bike is a Honda VTX 1800 C that I bought new in 2003. I rode out to California from Pennsylvania last April to attend Wolf’s meet and greet.
        I rented a ten foot by ten foot storage unit after my divorce in 2009 mainly to store the bike. Last year I got rid of my last remaining stuff and now I just rent a parking space that fits both the truck and the bike. Feel free to ask me anything else. I will have plenty of time during the long layovers of my upcoming flights.

        • leanFIRE_Queen says:

          I LOVE everything that Honda makes! Including my Honda Civic.
          Thank you so much for your info!

          It will be a learning curve for me because I ride bikes but not motorcycles. After listening to Sam Zell talk about his 2 annual motorcycle rides and watching many lean fire role models of mine carry a motorcycle behind their RVs… I’m sold!

          It seems so practical to get around, for me, it’s not only the feeling of freedom everybody talks about. Living right next to R66 also tempts me.

        • kitten lopez says:

          XXXXXOOOO!!!

  15. otishertz says:

    Who needs to rent office space when you can pull an Uber and utilize your employee’s property for free.

    All the new software to monitor worker location and surveil activities with video and on the computer will further blue the lines of privacy inside homes.

    Maybe we can begin to call it the surveillance and censorship economy. The biggest US companies (FAAMG) all have spying and surveillance as part of their core business model.

    • Portia says:

      I am a total bore. They will totes fall asleep

    • Son of an Engineer says:

      There are companies that offer computer programs to employers to spy on remote workers to see how many hours a day they work and how many keystrokes they use. I know of four such companies, none of which have stock traded on an exchange. NCH Software out of Greewood Village CO, Humanyze (a startup out of Boston), Hubstaff Project Management Software (part of Netsoft Hoildings) andNexthink (from Switzerland).

      • Canadian says:

        I hope my competitors use such software.

        Equating productivity and efficacy with number of keystrokes and time on one’s butt in front of a screen is a surefire way to build a “production” mindset devoid of innovation.

        I invent stuff for a living. My office is often a creek I walk along, or the ocean, or the town square. A couple hours of waking and I have the idea of what I’m going to make. Then k draw it out on paper, whiteboard the production process, prototype it, research it with customers, and turn it over to fab to mass produce.

        Good luck measuring my work with “keystroke software.” LOL

  16. Seneca's cliff says:

    The biggest losers will be those high rise buildings in non-downtown locations, such as the ones in Irvine Ca, Bellvue Wa, Stamford Ct, etc. They don’t have the hipster-cultural drawing power of the downtown high rises but they are still Covid Scary. I laugh at Nike who was is in the process of replacing acre upon acre of single level suburban offices with high rises on their Main Campus when the Virus hit.

    • Cas127 says:

      Could not happen to a more deserving band of poseurs.

      Every time Nike opens its corporate yap, I think these are precisely the kind of operators who game GAAP to the max.

  17. Bob says:

    I know I’m one of the usual suspects who keeps saying that my area isn’t dropping in price and I think this is why. I live in an area that 70+ years ago would’ve been considered a suburb to downtown San Diego (my house was built in 1942, others older, others not much newer). At least to me, it sure looks like folks are first running to the closer suburbs so there’s still a city feel, but one that comes with a white picket fence and a tire swing in the tree. I could be wrong, though.
    The area I keep harping on is the neighborhoods surrounding SDSU.

  18. Saylor says:

    With my sci fi glasses on (I just LOVE wearing them) I have seen a movement to a large manufacturing function of being diffused small buildings with a variety of 3D printers and downloaded files (fees paid for licenses) where various things a printed on demand. There are 3D printers that can print in metal alloys, resins and perhaps even cellulose. This will be part of what moves us away from larger campus operations where I will walk my robotic dog on Sundays.

  19. With the economy reopening, Covid as hoax is reappearing. Home workers see a plot by big tech to cut pay, and disenfranchise workers. A lot of them are never coming back to work. This will the biggest downsize ever, and Wall St loves it, they will make money trading in debt. It couldn’t have come at a better time, labor was ultra tight. Suburbanites are still fearful, and walkups may run into NIMBY protests, HOA rules, and city zoning regulations. Never mind you can’t work at home, you can’t work at the office, you aren’t supposed to work at all! Every step in the post industrial reduction in jobs has gone against the former workers, and this will be no different. Potus was the most public voice of Corona as hoax, has been quiet about that. The story of the virus as a hoax is performing yeoman duty for the 1%. Just need the media, those corporate darlings, to take a pass on wave II in infections. Or spin it positively, right after they read the new highs in the Dow Jones.

    • Cas127 says:

      Yep, nothing like mass protests (accompanied by mass looting) to demonstrate the Left’s own belief in the pandemic’s mass killing power across all age groups.

    • EEngineer says:

      The real fun begins when they try to get everyone to go back to the office with “social distancing”. I won’t be playing that game…

      Fear is the little mind killer!

  20. LeClerc says:

    Solitary confinement is bad, but heavy-handed rules are worse.

    Companies are planning to regulate sitting, standing, walking, eating, drinking, talking, and, of course, breathing. Violations of the rules will eventually result in dismissal.

    Let’s see how long limits on elevator occupancy (and 20+ minute lobby-to-office commutes each way) last.

  21. BuySome says:

    Does this mean they can haul away the highway billboard that says “If you lived downtown, you’d be home already”?

  22. Seneca's cliff says:

    The county-wide wastewater agency my wife works for built a headquarters and admin building on an island in the middle of the wetlands they manage 20 years ago. It is a rambling low rise with multiple entrances and high ceilings like a barn. My wife just moved to an office with an outside deck overlooking the wetlands that she will now repurpose as an outdoor meeting room. Many employees didn’t used to like this location as it is a mile or so from town, but now it is looking pretty smart.

  23. Jdog says:

    You guys are discounting the most important part of the corporate world is not the work, it is the politics. It is pretty hard to stay informed and participate in the political “goings on” from home…..
    For that reason, I do not see the work from home thing lasting…

    • Cas127 says:

      “It is pretty hard to stay informed and participate in the political “goings on” from home…..”

      If only there were a series of interconnected tubes, called the Interwebs, with over 10 million web-cytes, 90% of which dedicated to political fights…

      • Cas127 says:

        Or, alternatively, Eeee!-mail, as a tool of corporate bitchery, backstabbing, and ass kissery.

        Or the Sellular Fon, for much the same purposes…

    • DeerInHeadlights says:

      Don’t forget Blind.

  24. motorcycle guy says:

    In 1982 I was first licensed as a stockbroker (Registered Representative).
    By 1991, three of the four broker dealers (BDs) I had been associated with had been merged/taken over by a firm I didn’t want to be associated with. In 1991 I looked into goin “independent”. There were and are BDs that support the broker who wants to work from home. For the next twenty three years I was associated with just two BDs and enjoyed it immensely. You were free to do what was best for your clients without pressure to sell the firms products.

  25. Tony22 says:

    Went with a friend to downtown San Rafael pre-Covid. Only Half an hour from Chinatown with no traffic. Never had been there. Lovely, lots of low older well built structures, plenty of restaurants, bars, cafes, nice weather, surrounded by green neighborhoods. Demographically, it looks more like the Midwest than Bay Area. That’s the kind of place that I could see city people and businesses moving to.

    • Lisa_Hooker says:

      If you can afford to buy and live in Marin you shouldn’t have money problems (unless you’re a wastrel). Does the trust fund check come quarterly or monthly?

      • Questa Nota says:

        Bitter, party of one? Bitter?

      • sierra7 says:

        Lisa Hooker:
        Ha-Ha!
        U took the thoughts right out of my mind!!
        Who wouldn’t want to live and work in Marin????????
        $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$
        (Personally my fav is Sausalito; my next life!)

        • Lisa_Hooker says:

          Me too, but the old Sausalito, 70’s/80’s, would be nicer.

        • Dave Chapman says:

          Sierra7 & Lisa Hooker:
          Definitely Sausalito! I miss Marinship.
          I miss the Well.

          [Showing my age.]

  26. Brant Lee says:

    Some revival of rural America would be great. The high gasoline prices of the early 2000s finished killing off so many little towns and rural communities. It would be nice to drive along a 2 lane highway dotted with small cafes, restaurants, and businesses with their own character, large enough for mom and pop owners, but too small for corporate chains. Bring back route 66!

    • Portia says:

      Come to Vermont, if that’s how you really feel.
      There are less than 20 McDonalds in the entire state

      • MCH says:

        And best of all, the B&J factory is right there if you ever feel the need to visit and taste the flavor of the day. Even their flavor graveyard is a nice touch.

        It’s a nice place, and lastly, not much in the way of riots.

        • Cas127 says:

          Most popular B+J flavors,

          Poseur Pistachio

          Vanilla Supremacy

          Pontificating Premia Surprise

      • BuySome says:

        “And you’ll never hear surf music again”, nor be able to Ski ‘ol Haystack for that matter. Otherwise, niiiiiiccceee!

  27. Cobalt Programmer says:

    Nothing new. Until 1900s, we lived near our work. Farmers most of us were, slept near the farms. Fisherman used to commute. Smiths or carpenters lived near their own shops. Without cars we have to live nearby. No need to worry about about golf clubs and new restaurants.

    What do we miss now?
    1. gossips
    2. petty politics
    3. what he is doing now?
    4. get more important projects than the other guy
    5. show off cars/new shirts/new style/make up everyday
    6. A very good place to relax from the stress filled home/family life
    7. If I don’t want to do anything, where to go?
    8. Where I can freely complain about my family members?
    9. meet some new person everyday!
    10. Looking at the new kids makes me feel old everyday.

    My supervisor once told me “if you can work at home, what prevents the job from outsourced?” If this becomes mainstream, no need of workclothes, I will be comfortable with my old dresses. I hate shaving my beard everyday. Likes to look at cats pictures on the side.

    • Harvey Mushman says:

      Cobalt wrote: My supervisor once told me “if you can work at home, what prevents the job from outsourced?”

      Your supervisor was right.

      • Portia says:

        That ship sailed YEARS ago

        • Lisa_Hooker says:

          And yet, more ships continue to sail out every day … day after day after day.

          To paraphrase Gresham – less regulation and cheap labor drives out high costs and overhead.

      • Mike G says:

        The mantra of the supervisor who adds no value, who needs people physically present to boss around to make themselves appear functional.

    • EEngineer says:

      A well oiled team can continue to function for quite some time in the WFH mode or any other adverse condition. Kind of hard to build a team under those conditions though. In many ways it’s the equivalent of burning through your reserves. Talent, like all other perishable things must be constantly replenished or cultivated. I have 15~20 years left before I retire and over the last 10 years I’ve begun to wonder who will replace us…

      • Lisa_Hooker says:

        I’ve been afraid of that for over a decade. Ten years ago I couldn’t replace the guys that were leaving. I have a friend at one the the National labs and they are becoming paranoid about the imminent retires. They can’t find enough truly qualified replacements, and the knowledge and experience is walking out the door.

  28. Ehawk says:

    Apple recently finished the multi-billion dollar pride and joy SPACE SHIP Campus. I doubt they’d let people just work from home and let it rot or sublease…

    same goes for Facebook and Google and oracle.. etc etc.

    • Wolf Richter says:

      All these big companies –particularly the three you listed — occupy a lot of space in a lot of standard office buildings away from their headquarters. For example, about a year ago, Facebook leased a whole tower in San Francisco. Not sure if anyone is already in it.

      • MCH says:

        If the new law passes about breaking commercial leases, Facebook may be able to take advantage of it. Oh my, talk about unintended consequences.

      • Portia says:

        What is Facebook really doing these days. I get a srtong impression they is working for the DOD or something related, Pentagon.

        • Lisa_Hooker says:

          As third place only to the Federal Reserve and Alphabet, Facebook does whatever it wants.

          Perhaps that’s what’s needed now – the Fed needs more advertising revenue.

  29. kw says:

    Or, companies and employees prefer working from home and a lot of properties are coming to market. https://www.news-press.com/story/news/local/2020/06/02/tervis-selling-sarasota-county-headquarters/3124243001/

  30. Les says:

    Elevators will have automatic UV lighting systems. Many public spaces are starting to test them out.

  31. Jeremy Wolff says:

    The only problem is that whichever suburb gets high demand will run out of space so they will have to build upward at some point. There are solutions to “risky” elevators with the plexiglass structures.

    On one hand, AVs will help drive suburban growth.

    On the other hand, workers may prioritize a social urban feel over the safety of suburbia.

  32. njbr says:

    I’ve bid 3 plans in the past few weeks adding elevators to existing buildings.

    One inside with 4 new shafts, another one with 2 more and one located outside the footprint of the building.

    Private elevators serving only your lease space is on-trend.

    Escalators in the lobby are being removed and are being replaced with grand stairs.

    Private communicating stairs and lifts are being added to reduce use of communal elevators and stairs in multi-floor leases.

    • Lisa_Hooker says:

      You’ll feel better when you know you got the disease from your coworkers instead of those bums on the 11th floor. Will private stairs and lifts get you a discount on your corporate insurance premiums?

  33. roddy6667 says:

    With salary reductions for employees working from less expensive areas, I see a market for fake residences. This would also involve a VPN at that location for logging into work. There would also have to be some kind of arrangement with your phone to forward and funnel a lot of calls through a device at your fake residence. Just like people pay to have their dogs walked when they are away, somebody would carry their phone around to make it look normal.

    • Ehawk says:

      * come on all these points are just nonsense.

      These are tech companies. Do you think that Google won’t find out where you’re located if you’re working for them?

  34. Island teal says:

    Good article. Comment above mentioned OR State with NO Sales tax and WA State with NO Income tax. For the record WA does charge a revenue tax on businesses… Anyways where do you think the public sector is going to get $ to make up for diminished revenue from the usual sources? That’s NEW taxes 😕😕

    • Debt Wazoo says:

      > For the record WA does charge a revenue tax on businesses

      Yeah it’s 1.5% max.

      For some industries it’s 0.4%.

    • BuySome says:

      If the guvees found that 49% of all amputees lost a right leg only, they’d try to propose a left shoe tax to the 51% that wouldn’t have to pay it.

  35. lincoln says:

    Wolf – I agree that many employees will seek to work permanently from home, and may employers will seek out suburban low rise office space. This does not bode well for commercial real estate in big cities. Saving commercial office buildings in big cities like New York requires finding a replacement for the social distancing nightmare below which is not so easy:

  36. CRV says:

    Getting a pay-cut when living in a cheaper place is a bad thing. It’s payment by needs not by production. Also don’t forget those cheaper places have fewer amenities. People who choose to live in cheaper places als choose to have higher costs of getting things to them. And … someone mentioned it … you give up part of your home when you make a home office. That’s an investment too. Partly compensated by not having to drive i guess. But you would not sell your car, only drive less.
    And how would this payment by postcode change in the future when some codes get more in favour and others decline. I repeat: bad thing. And has nothing to do with how productive someone is for his employer.

  37. Mike says:

    “If an employee wishes to work from Ely, his salary will be reduced to reflect Ely’s cost of living.”

    This may be how it works initially, but it won’t be that way for long. The demand for tech talent will change it. That person working in Ely can now work for anyone, anywhere. That person is no longer tied to a geographic location. Demand just went up for that person.

    Companies will quickly start bidding up offers for remote employees, regardless of the COL where they work.

    Tech employees, in the last several years, have started demanding similar salaries in all cities in the US. They know what others are making, and demand to make the same. My company used to have very different comp packages based on location – no more. We had to increase everything because we couldn’t hire in the previously lower cost locations. This will happen with remote employees too.

  38. NoFreeLunch says:

    Check out the “The Verge” article on this too. They call the Bay Area version of it “Byte Flight”.

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